The Flexible Work Schedule: The Pros & Cons

by Camille Bradbury on April 2, 2018

A flexible work schedule seems like all the rage these days, but will it work for every employer? And, just why is it trending anyway?

Trend Drivers
Millennials are the largest generation to hit the workforce since baby boomers, and flexible hours is at the top of their must-have benefits list. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there are 83.1 million millennials in the workforcerepresenting more than 25% of the nation’s population. Their size exceeds that of the 75.4 million baby boomers.

However, flexible scheduling is also attractive to Gen Xers and baby boomers, the other two main generations currently in the workforce. Many are juggling work and family commitments, and others are taking care of aging parents.

In addition, with the national unemployment rate hovering at 4.1% — an all-time low — employers are getting creative with fringe benefits, such as flexible schedules, in order to stay competitive in attracting top talent.

Flexible Work Schedule Defined
At its most basic level, a flexible schedule simply means an alternative to the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, 40-hour workweek. It could mean varying start or departure times, the popular working 10-hour days, 4 days a week (4-10), or other combinations. And, it can also mean working from home or remotely.

The Pros & Cons of Flexible Schedules
To help you weigh your options, here are 10 pros and cons of offering a flexible work schedule:

PROS

  1. Increased Employee Productivity

According to Inc. magazine, every generation craves work/life balance. However, for Millennials, it’s not only a “nice to have,” but also a necessity for happiness. They’re onto something. If your employees are happy, they tend to be more productive, more engaged, and more innovative. With proper expectations from employers and mobile technology, it can be just as productive, if not more, for employees to work from home as it is in the office.

  1. Lower Turnover

What’s the cost of losing an employee? Higher than you think. My research found it ranges anywhere from $25,000 to $25 million per employee by the time you factor in the fallout from lowered worker morale and additional recruiting expenses. As KPA’s HR Consultants will tell you, the ability to grow your company is largely based on retaining your top performers.

A MetLife study also found that 70% of employees who are satisfied with their benefits are also more loyal. In other words, the right benefits ignite a passion for your organization and your organization gets better results.

  1. Enhanced Innovation

Work settings have no shortage of distractions — noise, the coworker who decided to heat up leftover fish for lunch, things happening inside or outside of your building. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that a typical office worker gets only 11 minutes of work time between each interruption and it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after each interruption. These interruptions make it hard to think let alone come up with brilliant new ideas that solve your company’s or clients challenges. Allowing employees to control the environment where they’re most innovative is advantageous for organizations.

  1. Enhance Team Communication

Working remotely requires that you check in with co-workers more frequently. This may sound like a con, but the added communication can help projects progress more smoothly with less potential for rework.

  1. Attract Top Talent

Unfortunately, if one company isn’t offering a desired lifestyle, chances are another one, or even one of your competitors, will. Forbes’ contributor and Snagajob Chief Operating Officer, Jocelyn Mangan, says, “To attract the best workers, employers must meet applicants where they are, offering the types of jobs and shifts they want.” She suggests flexibility, either in allowing “gig” or freelance employees to work multiple assignments for different employers or employees with varying schedules, is key to employers succeeding in a high-employment, high-flexibility economy.

CONS

  1. Not Every Employee Can Work At Home

Some of your employees won’t have the proper set up at home in order for them to stay productive. In addition, who isn’t preoccupied with taking care of other tasks at home (hello laundry) instead of devoting our full attention to our work? For others going through difficult personal situations, coming into the office every day can provide a reprieve.

  1. Managing Remote Employees Can Be More Difficult

According to Gallup, only 10% of the population are natural-born managers. New or struggling managers may have difficulty effectively managing employees in-person let alone remotely.

  1. Productivity Has the Potential to Decline

Studies show a direct relationship between engagement at work and productivity. Engagement, in part, translates into work relationships. We are social creatures by nature, and employees working in isolation has the potential to backfire on your culture.

  1. May Not Work for Non-exempt Employees

The 4-10 and 9-80 alternative schedules are gaining popularity, but they may be better suited for salaried or exempt employees. In addition, shift work usually must maintain set hours at a set location.

  1. May Negatively Impact Work/Life Balance

A Bentley University survey revealed that 77% of Millennials felt flexible hours would make them more productive, however, 89% of them admitted to regularly checking work emails after work hours. In general, statistics consistently show that the U.S. workforce has a hard time disconnecting from work and is more stressed out than our European counterparts.

American Work/Life Balance

  • Work 1,790 hours per year vs. 1,482 hours in France
  • Average 15 days off vs. 30 days in many European countries
  • Use 73% of our vacation
  • 61% reported job-related stress vs. 22% in the European Union

When employees integrate work and life, it’s convenient to work odd hours, which may impact their sleep as well as effective collaboration.

With the rising popularity of flexible schedules, it’s something you’ll want to keep on your radar for evaluation. Watch for more from KPA on this topic!

Additional Resources
KPA Blog Post You’ve Got Millennials Figured Out… Wrong

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